The joy of getting to know Meghan Markle

It was the first time that I’d seen Harry and Meghan together. There was no way I’d expected them to appear somewhere as open and public as Nathan Phillips Square in the middle of Toronto.

But on 25 September, around 14 months after they started dating, they walked straight past me at the Invictus Games. Holding hands, and without uttering a word, they were making a very clear statement to the world’s media. This was the real thing.

For a royal correspondent finding out about Meghan has been a joy. There’s so much about her online and lots of it put out there by the actress herself. Playing the paralegal Rachel Zane, in the legal drama Suits, really boosted her profile, and like any ambitious starlet she worked hard to build her online “brand”.

Her own blog “The Tig” and her Instagram account gave her fans a very open window into Meghan’s world. Her blog was closed down shortly after we found out she was dating Harry, but her Instagram is still a high-definition, filter- enhanced picture book of her life.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle watch Wheelchair Tennis at the 2017 Invictus Games

Image: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle watch Wheelchair Tennis at the 2017 Invictus Games

You can find photos of her friends, her dogs, her family and the famous people she’s rubbed shoulders with, from her co-stars on Suits, to Justin Trudeau and Barack Obama.

It also gives you a fascinating insight into how this future royal views the world, with motivational quotes liberally scattered amongst the photographs. One that really stands out is, “Teach your daughters to worry less about fitting into glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings”. Very telling when you consider the life that lies ahead of her.

For all the posing and pouting at red carpet events, this is a woman of substance. A self-proclaimed activist and feminist, who was invited to be a UN advocate for women’s political participation, and spoke at the United Nations on International Women’s day in 2015, saying “We need a global understanding that we cannot implement change effectively without women’s political participation”.

Ahead of the US elections she made it clear she wouldn’t be voting for Donald Trump, saying in an interview “as misogynistic as Trump is, and so vocal about it, that’s a huge chunk of it. You’re not just voting for a woman, if it’s Hilary, because she’s a woman, but certainly because Trump has made it easy to see that you don’t really want that kind of world that he’s painting”.

Sharing a joke at the Invictus Games 2017 in Toronto

Image: Sharing a joke at the Invictus Games 2017 in Toronto

It’s exciting to see a punchy woman who hasn’t been afraid to speak out on difficult subjects joining the house of Windsor. But it will be interesting to see how she mixes her compulsion for campaigning with her new responsibilities as a member of “The Firm”. Don’t forget that politics is off limits when you’re a royal.

Through her charity work with World Vision, Meghan has travelled to Rwanda for their clean water campaign. She also visited India to show how the potential of young girls is being compromised because of the stigma surrounding menstruation.

The comparisons with Princess Diana will inevitably come thick and fast, especially from her homeland of America where they still have an obsession with Harry’s mother, 20 years after she died.

One aspect of Meghan that has already attracted attention is her ethnicity. And it is a subject she hasn’t shied away from as a proud bi-racial woman, brought up by an African American mum and a white father.

At the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012

Image: At the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012

In an article for Elle magazine she described how her parents “crafted a world around me to make me feel like I wasn’t different, but special”. For Christmas her mum and dad bought her one black doll and one white doll. It’s an upbringing that has encouraged her to speak out about racial equality.

She is the first mixed race person to be marrying into the British royal family. Commentators have described it as socially momentous for the country, and a good reason to get us talking about diversity and social mobility.

It’s also been suggested it is an opportunity for black people to feel more connected to the all-white palace lineage. It is a significant moment and another move towards modernity for a family that under the reign of Harry’s grandmother has constantly adjusted and changed, to make sure the monarchy remains accessible and relevant.

There has been lots of press attention surrounding Prince Harry's relationship with Meghan Markle - and he complained in November about intrusion

Video: September: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first official outing together

Harry and Meghan have got plenty in common. Just start with their humanitarian work; you’ll find no shortage of pictures of them both dancing and hugging little children. Both are from divorced families, funnily enough they seem to share a love of dogs, and they are used to being in the spotlight.

But their whirlwind romance has still taken the world by surprise; the Queen’s grandson hooking up with an American divorcee, who’s appeared in her underwear on TV. Her own high-profile career means that most of the skeletons are already well and truly out of the closet.